Supplement to e-BLN 1256 BLN Pictorial 7 May 2016
Refreshed by another visit to Slovakia, your Wulfrunian Sub-Ed has been pondering what he might offer for your entertainment while still managing to
avoid Slovakian holiday snaps. Wulfrunians, as they but few others know, are those born and bred in Wolverhampton, a town with quite an interesting
railway history. In common with many other places, Wolverhampton's railways have gone through considerable changes since the 1960s, and continue to
do so. The city (for so it was designated at the end of 2000, though to this ex-resident it was and remains 'Town') has suffered lean times in recent years, or
even decades, with the erosion to the point of non-existence of its traditional industries and the associated economic decline. Great efforts are being made
to rejuvenate the city centre and in particular the run-down area between the city centre and Heath Town, surrounding the current Wolverhampton
station (ex-LNWR and formerly Wolverhampton High Level) and the nearby, and long closed, former GWR Wolverhampton Low Level station. Your Sub-Ed,
on his occasional visits to old haunts, has accumulated quite a collection of images, particularly relating to the redevelopment of Wolverhampton Low Level
station, over the last decade or so. Some of the latter are offered here, together with others from 'round and about'. Where not otherwise attributed, the
pictures should be blamed on your Sub-Ed.
A similar approach has been adopted as in recent BLN Pictorials, where you can click on the page number next to each caption to go to the relevant photo,
and on the bottom left hand corner of each photo to return to the captions. There is a map on the last page with camera symbols which you can click to go
to the related photo; a click on the bottom right hand corner of the photo will get you back to the map.
5. A visitor trying to find either of the stations in the 1960s, or High Level in the 1970s might well have encountered this semi-derelict building, with a
notice proclaiming it as 'Wolverhampton Queen Street Goods Depot' - for indeed it is situated at the end of Queen Street, one of the more important
streets in Wolverhampton's city centre. Built in 1849, it was originally the carriage entrance to the LNWR station which OP 1 July 1852 as
Wolverhampton Queen Street, subsequently renamed to Wolverhampton High Level on 1 June 1885. (Michael Westley [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia
6. Grade II listed in 1977, the Queen's Building continued to languish until the early 1990s when it was refurbished and used to house the enquiry office
for the bus station, subsequently relocated nearby. It now houses Costa Coffee - not very inspiring but at least a nice bit of Victorian architecture has
been saved. This view from 26 September 2008 shows the Queen's Building in its 'enquiry office' phase.
7. Younger members might have the impression that the 'Inter City' name belongs to the diesel and electric era. Not so, for British Railways coined the
name for a Paddington-Wolverhampton express in 1950, which it carried until 1965. Here a smartly turned out 5032 'Usk Castle' heads the Up 'Inter-
City' at Wolverhampton Low Level on 31 March 1958. (Ben Brooksbank [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
8. Wolverhampton Low Level, OP 1 July 1854 as Wolverhampton Joint, renamed Wolverhampton Low Level in April 1856, CP 6 March 1972, was
retained as a Parcels Concentration Depot (in which capacity it started work on 1 April 1970) until final closure 1 June 1981. It then lingered on under
the guise of an ambitious but ultimately fruitless scheme for a 'Railway Heritage Centre'. Wolverhampton Council purchased the buildings, which
were Grade II listed on 25 March 1986, in May 1986 and renovated the exterior, but the remainder of the station fell into a very poor state. It is
pictured here on 28 March 2006, looking in the Shrewsbury direction, before redevelopment started. Much of the track is still in place, including the
through goods lines on the extreme right of the picture. To the right of those, the flattened area was occupied by a carriage shed, goods yard and
the former MR Wednesfield Road Goods. The train in the previous picture is standing on the rightmost of the four tracks in the main part of the
9. The other end of Low Level, again on 28 March 2006. The photo was taken from the then new footbridge at the current station, built at vast expense
to serve platform 4, opened in 2004 on the site of the former through goods line and carriage sidings. At Low Level, the Shrewsbury bay platform
was to the right of the picture and the trackbed of the through goods lines can be seen just to the left of the Up platform. The large modern building
in the background, a Royal Mail sorting and delivery office replacing the original one in Horseley Fields, occupies most of the site of Wednesfield
10. 'The Colonnades' is a covered walkway connecting the Low Level station with Wednesfield Road, and via a subway which is just to the
photographer's right, the High Level station. This tiled walkway too is Grade II listed, since 20 February 1987. The Low Level station is to the left of
the photograph, High Level above (unsurprisingly) and to the right.
11. Two months on from the earlier pictures of a semi-derelict Low Level, and the builders have arrived! Here on 27 May 2006, work has started on a
retaining wall on Wednesfield Road, and ground work for the Premier Inn, the 'Bluebrick' pub/restaurant, and their car park. The platform awnings
have been stripped and most of the Up side boundary wall has gone. The 'Bluebrick' name is a nod to the unusual appearance of Low Level's main
building, designed in an Italianate style but faced entirely with the blue bricks (sometimes called Staffordshire Blue) much used in industrial and
railway buildings in the area.
12. This short lived view of the whole of the Down side buildings on 27 May 2006 can no longer be seen following completion of the redevelopment. The
building with the bright blue fascia to the left of the picture is Wolverhampton PSB, closed from 5 May 2015. In the centre behind the station, with
the yellow fascia, is the more modern part of the 1850s steam corn mill, belonging appropriately to J.N. Miller and situated equally appropriately on
Corn Hill. This is the building which was recently demolished, enabling preparatory work to resume on the Wolverhampton (High Level)
redevelopment (BLN 1250.279).
13. The development well under way a year later, on 5 May 2007. The Premier Inn is complete (centre, beyond the concrete tank), and to the right of it
the 'Bluebrick' is well under way. The footbridge has been renovated and off to the right, flats are under construction. The flats became a casualty
of the 2008 financial crash and stood incomplete for a number of years, though now completed and occupied.
14. The landscaped area at the west (Shrewsbury) end of Low Level on 6 March 2009. To the left is the Premier Inn, built on the site of the north facing
bays and part of the Down through platform. On the right is the Bluebrick, occupying part of the Up through platform. In the centre beyond the car
park can be seen the retaining wall at the site of the Wednesfield Road overbridge, and beyond that is Victoria Hall, student accommodation for the
University of Wolverhampton, occupying the GWR trackbed between Low Level and Cannock Road Jn.
15. The exterior of Low Level, almost free of building work on 6 March 2009. Since this photo was taken a glazed porch has been added to the former
booking hall entrance, which now leads into a banqueting suite. For many years the GWR had ambitions to build a branch from Wolverhampton to
Bridgnorth - this was never constructed but the GWR ran a bus service to Bridgnorth station (from 7 November 1904 with steam buses, then motor
buses from the following year), from a stop opposite the Low Level booking office. Following nationalisation this lingered on for many years as
Wolverhampton Corporation's route 16. For more on the Bridgnorth proposals see http://goo.gl/Z5HmEk.
16. Moving into the surrounding area, the GWR trackbed (CA 4 March 1968) reappears beyond the students' tower block. We're looking east from just
west of Cannock Road Jn, with the long derelict Butler's (latterly M&B) Springfield Brewery on the left. This site too is soon to be redeveloped by
the ever expanding University. The electrified former LNWR line can be seen to the right, and beyond that the GWR's Herbert Street goods depot
(1931-1970), occupied by a builder's merchant. The photo was taken on 16 April 2010.
17. This view back towards Wolverhampton Low Level on 16 April 2010 shows the Cannock Road overbridge. The picture is taken from the site of
Cannock Road Jn, where the line to Dunstall Park and Shrewsbury diverged from the rarely used spur to Bushbury Jn. CA 4 March 1968, both lines
ROG 6 October 1969 as far as Cannock Road Jn, where Merrygoround coal trains from the north to Ironbridge Power Station reversed in order to
access the Wolverhampton-Shrewsbury line at Stafford Road Jn, just beyond Dunstall Park. This manoeuvre, requiring the locomotive to run round
under the supervision of a locally based shunter, was made redundant in 1983 by the construction of the double track Oxley Chord. This was a short
east to west curve linking the two lines between Bushbury Jn and Dunstall Park, thus eliminating the reversal and resulting in final closure of the
Bushbury Jn-Cannock Road Jn and Cannock Road Jn-Stafford Rd Jn sections, between Cannock Road Jn and the ends of the new curve.
18. The former Herbert Street goods depot on 16 April 2010. The goods depot, opened in autumn 1931 to replace the earlier Victoria Basin depot, was
occupied by a firm of builder's merchants following its closure in 1970. In 2013 a major fire resulted in the destruction of the building; the same
firm now occupies the site in modern buildings. Brief articles on Herbert Street can be found at http://goo.gl/y0uxDr and BLN 1157.346. In 1960 an
automated handling system comprising small electric 'tugs' ('Robotugs') which followed wires buried in the floor was introduced - a British Pathé
short film about the system can be seen at http://goo.gl/md3rxZ . The depot, and its predecessor, were accessed by a short branch from Stafford
Road Junction which in the late 1960s, following electrification, was connected to the former LNWR line at Wolverhampton North Junction so that
Shrewsbury line services could run into Wolverhampton High Level.
19. GWR buildings at the entrance to Herbert Street goods depot. These survived the 2013 fire, being some distance away, and remain in use.
20. Moving now to the east side of the city, this photograph shows one of the more unusual of Wolverhampton's railway features. This is a rail/canal
transhipment shed, located between Bilston Road and the LNWR Stour valley line and accessed by a short branch diverging north from the Stour
Valley line and curving round to pass beneath it. The adjacent Wolverhampton Steel Terminal is now served by this short branch; the steel
terminal occupies the eastern side of the former GWR Walsall Street goods depot, originally connected to the GWR main line. Since the picture
was taken on 6 March 2009, the sidings have been cut back to a buffer stop beneath the Stour Valley line overbridge. The map at http://goo.gl/
FLhbUQ shows the area in 1901; the shed surviving today is the one to the south of 'Monmore Green Wks'. The one to the north thereof, has
disappeared beneath the present day British Oxygen depot along with the rest of the western half of the Walsall Street goods depot.
21. Even a brief visit to Wolverhampton should include a mention of the Midland Metro, which occupies the GWR trackbed for most of the way from
Birmingham Snow Hill to Wolverhampton. It has recently (at last) been diverted at the Snow Hill end to continue via Bull Street and Corporation
Street to Stephenson Place, adjacent to Birmingham New Street Station - at the Wolverhampton end it leaves the GWR alignment at the site of the
former Priestfield station, junction of the original Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway route from Stourbridge via Dudley (O 1
December 1853) and the later Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Dudley Railway (O 14 November 1854) from Birmingham. This photo from 15
October 2010 shows the Metro line where it turns off the street running section to descend to the GWR alignment which formerly passed
underneath Bilston Road between Priestfield and Stow Heath sidings.
22. Nearer Wolverhampton, and close to the location of photograph 16, Midland Metro tram No 06 makes its way along Bilston Road, heading for the
original Metro terminus at Birmingham Snow Hill on 6 March 2009.
Much more is about to happen in the centre of Wolverhampton, as was reported in BLN 1250.279. First the station's multi-storey car park is to be
extended and its access moved from Railway Drive, the road connecting the station and the city centre, to Corn Hill. The access to the station's vehicle
pick-up/drop-off area for cars and taxis will also be via Corn Hill - the wisdom of this eludes your Sub-Ed if he's honest, but nevertheless it will make
possible the next phase of the Wolverhampton Interchange project, which is the extension of the Metro from a point just short of its current terminus,
St George's, via Piper's Row where it will pass beside Wolverhampton's 'Palais de Bus' then turn north to run along Railway Drive to its terminus outside
the railway station. Wolverhampton station itself (High Level) is to be rebuilt too, finally ridding the city of its bleak late 1960s British Rail creation.
Exposed to both north and east winds, it's always been an inhospitable place though it was better in its LNWR guise, which offered a little more shelter.
Perhaps when there's enough to see of the new developments a future 'Pictorial' can report with a more LNWR/LMS flavour. But with all the ups and
downs that the project has gone through (and continues to, with the void under Corn Hill yet to be dealt with), don't hold your breath just yet!